First-Year Seminar Course Outcomes


Note: This document is intended as a starting place only, and will be revised and refined over the coming years. It should be understood to reflect the capabilities we agree on, but does not preclude other capabilities each of us might focus on developing in our students. It does not include capabilities/outcomes each seminar might have for its discipline-based subject matter, even as we recognize that the subject matter and the writing cannot be separated.

The First-Year Seminar models the academic life, in particular by its seminar nature, a hallmark of which is strong faculty-student interaction. The First -Year Seminar engages students in the integrated activities of reading, research, discussion, and composition around a designated subject. At its core, this course is designed to provide first-year students with opportunities for both sustained, rigorous investigation of a topic and close faculty-student interaction. Students will gain a deeper appreciation of the role of writing in scholarly investigation, as they refine, adapt, and expand their abilities to absorb, synthesize and construct arguments in close-knit community.

Accordingly, the FYS is both a writing (composing) course and a course that works with a particular content; the writing engages the content and enables deep learning of that content, and vice versa. "Writing" in this course is thus understood within the context of advanced learning--as a process that requires students to balance their acquisition of new knowledge and contextualized understanding (gained through reading, research, and discussion) against the challenges of synthesizing and re-presenting that understanding in ways that suit their current context.

In order to achieve that balance, the seminar helps students recognize analogies between the work of absorbing complex content--for example, through reading and research inquiry-- and that of constructing it.  In a seminar on medical imaging, for example, students could analyze how the most effective presentation of MRI data is similar to and differs from the most effective presentation of data in a scientific academic paper. Likewise, students in a history or sociology seminar can draw from their classroom analysis of historical evidence to find new methods for evaluating their own evidence in a class essay, project, or presentation. This integration of advanced learning, inquiry, and writing is the foundation of the course.

While this document separates out the capabilities students should develop in the course in order to help identify them, we acknowledge that they are all interrelated in the everyday reality of the course.

I. Academic Process

In the First-Year Seminar context, students are engaged in reading (both course assigned reading and research reading) as a core component of writing well on a particular topic. Likewise, students will write--both formally and informally--in order to process and engage with their reading. In both respects, reading and research are integral to the seminar's writing goals, and vice versa.

•  Students will demonstrate the ability to perform close and critical readings.

•  Students will demonstrate the ability to consider critically the motives and methods of scholarship and the relationship between them.

•  Students will demonstrate the ability to distinguish opinions and beliefs from researched claims and evidence and recognize that kinds of evidence will vary from subject to subject. For instance, some fields call for quantitative support while others work more commonly with quoted, textual evidence.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to ask disciplinarily appropriate questions of the material and recognize when lines of inquiry fall outside of disciplinary boundaries.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate, credit, and synthesize sources.

II. Composing and Producing

As writers in the First-Year Seminar, students will practice capabilities related to entry-level thinking, research, and writing in a particular field. Specifically, they will develop the "rhetorical flexibility" necessary to recognize that different academic domains require their own approaches appropriate to the context. Since the problem of "how to write effectively" is dependent on what they are writing about, writing is not a separate "skill" that can be fully separated from disciplinary context. Understanding this need for flexibility, students will approach future course writing with a productive mindset, one that will allow them to make rhetorical adjustments as needed.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to take a piece of writing through the process of revision in order to advance their ideas and communicate more effectively with their readers.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to discern the assignment's intended audience and objectives and respond appropriately.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to identify the disciplinary context for different kinds of writing, including both informal writing (like scientific note taking) and formal writing (like a research paper in Government).

• Students will demonstrate the ability to construct a paper consistent with expectations of the discipline, including an appropriate organization, style, voice, and tone.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to perform critical readings of their own writing and the writing of others.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to proofread.

III. Interacting in the Course

These include capabilities related to interacting intellectually in a seminar through informal and formal speaking.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to collaborate with others as they work on intellectual projects (reading, writing, speaking, researching...).

• Students will demonstrate the ability to prepare appropriately to participate effectively in class discussion.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to follow discussions, oral arguments, and presentations, noting main points or evidence and tracking threads through different comments. Further, students will be able to challenge and offer substantive replies to others' arguments, comments, and questions, while remaining sensitive to the original speaker and the classroom audience.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to speak and debate with an appreciation for complex social and cultural sensibilities.

• Students will demonstrate the ability to offer compelling, articulate oral arguments, showing an understanding of the unique demands of oral presentation as opposed to writing.